The National Highway Traffic Safety Association has issued a consumer advisory to drivers of 15-passenger vans to guard against rollover crashes, particularly during this warm weather season.
Our Jupiter personal injury lawyers know the message is timely because these type of vehicles are often rented or used in the summer time for family vacations, summer camp outings or senior trips.
The main problem is that they are too often overloaded. Also, because these vehicles handle very differently from other types of passenger vehicles, they are at increased risk of rollovers. Those who drive 15-passenger vans don’t need a special type of license, which is unfortunate because many of those who get behind the wheel of these behemoths often don’t have a great deal of experience in operating them – which makes them more prone to improper actions such as over-correcting.
Just this month on the Florida Turnpike, the Associated Press reported that one passenger was killed and 19 other people injured – all from a Miami-area church group – after the 15-passenger van, into which they had piled, rolled over numerous times while traveling through Kenansville, just south of Kissimmee.
Investigators say the van was overcrowded and had a tire problem. Not only was the vehicle overloaded – including a number of small children – it was also crammed with a lot of luggage.
It appears that shortly after 7 p.m., the rubber from at least one of the tires on the vehicle began to separate. This resulted in the van rolling over toward the median.
It’s unclear how many times the vehicle rolled, but we know the tragic result: One person, a 46-year-old woman, was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Several of the children in the van were hurt. Three people were flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
This is exactly the kind of thing that the NHTSA wants to warn against.
Improperly inflated tires are reportedly one of the top causes of rollover crashes with 15-passenger van. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon issue. A recent NHTSA survey reportedly estimated that 30 percent of all 15-passenger vans in the U.S. have at least one tire that is “significantly” under-inflated, meaning by 8 psi or more.
The NHTSA advises the following for any individual, organization or company planning a trip with a 15-passenger van:
–No matter what, never overload one of these vehicles. Not only does doing this increase the chance of a rollover, but it decreases stability during handling maneuvers.
–The steering components and suspension should be appropriately inspected according to the manufacturer’s recommend schedule. Any parts should be replaced as necessary.
–Keep the vehicle well-maintained. Drivers should be experienced in operating one of these vehicles.
–Make sure that the van is properly equipped with tires that are both the right size and correctly load-rated.
–Before every trip, the tires should be checked for any signs of damage or wear and to ensure that each tire is inflated properly.
And finally, the most important thing passengers can do is make sure to wear a seat belt – every time, no exceptions.
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